Heavy Metal Heaven – Old Bridge Metal Militia Reunion Concert – Lords Of Mercy, The Rods, Raven, Twisted Sister, Anvil, T.T. Quick – Live Review 5/11/13
When this show was first announced I believe it was just Raven, Anvil and Twisted Sister, and that in itself already seemed like a “can’t miss” event, so the final line-up as listed really was exceptional. A night that many heavy metal fans perhaps thought they would never see, particularly T.T. Quick and The Rods, who are playing almost never and rarely, respectively. First though I should point out that the cause behind this event, namely hurricane Sandy, and the devastation left behind, is still a horrible reality for many people, so the spirit and intent behind this show was a motivation of great passion – all the bands donated their time, the organizers, Eddie Trunk and the boys from That Metal Show, the various production companies, etc – everyone involved deserves great kudos and recognition for making this happen. The show was fully sold out the day before and, combined with the money raised through a raffle of donated guitars and basses, over $40,000 was raised, that will basically be going directly to people in dire need. Metal gives back, or just gives, since I don’t think it ever “took” anything in this case.
Now I don’t know the full back-story behind the Old Bridge Metal Militia or the Heavy Metal Heaven record store, but between them they were the organizers of this exceptional event, and they did a fine job considering everyone was basically a volunteer. Pulling off something like this is by no means a cake-walk and at the end of the day I’d like to offer my thanks for putting the event on – notwithstanding the good cause, this was a heavy metal night to remember, and this is likely one of those nights that becomes legendary, at least in rock history.
Rather than string this out in my usual fashion, with a little history lesson here and a tale from the “old days” there, I’ll try and keep to the meat’n’potatoes of the night as much as possible, but first a word on the venue. Hailing from Northern Virginia, the Encore Center in Freehold, NJ, meant absolutely nothing to me, and when we arrived it seemed we were at a rather non-descript strip mall… not very heavy metal at all. Fortunately the sheer amount of long-haired, leather clad metal fans confirmed we were in the right place. Entering the venue, we were greeted with a variety of guitars and basses up for raffle, a display from Oktober Guitars (http://www.oktoberguitars.com/), who had donated two of the raffle entries (an 8-string bass and a Raven MGT guitar), event t-shirt sales, plus a Raven merch stand. Despite all this, I suspect this hall was more used to wedding receptions, than metal shows. Not that mattered once we made our way into the main hall, which was dominated by a wide, high stage, flanked by a serious looking PA with a back-drop of two large video screens. I think the venue capacity was 1500 and at its peak the floor was packed, but not ridiculously so. In other words the organizers got it pretty much spot on.
The running order was Lords of Mercy, The Rods, Raven, Twisted Sister, ANVIL and topped off with T.T. Quick. I managed to snap a photo of the official running order and set-time list – see below. Basically everyone was scheduled with a run-time of 40 minutes, which seemed fair, even if didn’t seem to run quite like that later. I was surprised by the start time listed for Lords of Mercy as the tickets stated “Doors 7pm, Show 8pm”, so anyone taking a late entry probably missed what was an exceptional kick-off for the evening. I can’t claim to know anything about Lords of Mercy except they were the local team and came out swinging. Front-man ‘Brandon Sweeny’ is a power-house and despite only catching a couple of numbers from front-of-house, if there was any need of an energy injection to light the night off, he was the man to do it. They did plenty more than enough to be sure I will be in the audience if they make their way down south anytime soon. Thinking about it they would be a good addition to the Rock Harvest II bill, due to take place at The House Of Rock (White Marsh, MD) in November. Before we leave Lords of Mercy, I have to say Brandon is a very personable chap and we were fortunate to meet him back-stage, and he even insisted on taking some pictures with our kids (yes, we turned this into a family outing!). Great PR.
With the evening off and running, the energy level in the whole venue was raised to ‘11’ and this was further stoked by Eddie Trunk, Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine, from That Metal Show, who were comparing, and next up they introduced The Rods. I had never seen The Rods before this night, but everything I had read told me to expect a much heavier show than their recordings, and boy, was that an understatement. It was interesting to me that tonight there were three true three-piece bands appearing, The Rods themselves, Raven and ANVIL, with each of them bring a serious slice of heavy. It’s somewhat poignant that I happen to be writing this on the 3rd anniversary of the passing of Ronnie James Dio, and that date was in my mind as I looked across the stage at the diminutive in height, but hugely talented guitarist, David “Rock” Feinstein, Ronnie’s cousin and band-mate during his time with ‘Elf’. I can’t help but think, had Ronnie been alive on this day, this would have been exactly the kind of benefit performance where we may have been blessed with a guest appearance. Somehow I know he was there in spirit, of that, I have no doubt. Their 40-minute set time passed way to fast and I was left wholly impressed with their power and overall heaviness. Again, another band to add to my list that I would travel a considerable distance to go see.
Now the venue was *really* heaving, and with the clock ticking past 9 o’clock, expectation was growing for the imminent arrival of rock legends ‘Raven’. Those who track the NoVAMetalReview blog will know I saw Raven a few short weeks past in Springfield, VA (Empire) and should recall I was raving (uhg, pun totally intended) about their raw energy and sheer outright musicianship. From the mighty Joe Hasselvander on the drums, who, for me, defines power and drive, to the outright insanity of Mark Gallagher on guitar (who, I swear, makes his instrument sound like there are two guitarists in the band) and incidentally easily wins the insane guitar face-pulling competition by several miles (sorry lads, thanks for playing…), to the hypersonic vocal abilities of John Gallagher, who I should also mention is easily capable of melting the frets off his bass, whether it has 4-, 8- or even 12-strings! Raven are one of those bands that don’t need written set-lists and use some kind of on-stage telepathy to know what song is up next. Looking round the hall, and not claiming any kind of science beyond “eye-balling it”, there seemed to be a very high percentage of the audience with Raven shirts on, so they either did a storm on the merch stand or they have some seriously loyal fans.
From the moment they opened with “Take Control”, the thing that struck me more than anything was the audience were singing along with every song, and heck, they knew every damn word. It was very cool to just stand there in the massive crowd and feel that happening. Up second was “Live at the Inferno” and the crowd went nuts. Personally, my favorite of the night was “Firepower” from the Wiped Out album, which I have previously stated is firmly in my top 10 records of all time, followed by “Rock Until You Drop” which perhaps was more appropriate this evening than many others, given the expect late close. Where The Rods scored with “heavy”, Raven went with “power”, just about evenly balanced with “energy”, and they brought it by the truck-load. Actually several silly-big trucks. Full trucks… Now, there was a little ‘odd moment’ at the tail-end of their set, when the stage manager (I assume that was his role?), basically ran onto the stage and announced ‘time’s up’ and cut the set short? WTF? I’ve never seen that at any show, at least as blatantly and just as it was clear that the lads were about to start what was presumably their last number, which I am guessing would have been “On and On”, since that hadn’t been played yet. We shall never know. I have a strange perception that Twisted Sister were getting slightly preferential treatment (more on that to follow) and this was a ploy to ensure T.S. got to hit the stage at their anointed set-time, but let me be clear, this is purely conjecture on my part. However, as Raven departed the stage, a huge chant broke out throughout the crowd: “RAVEN! RAVEN! RAVEN!…”, that echoed throughout the hall and far backstage I’m sure. Raven were the only band to receive this sort of adulation all evening.
Backstage, not one of the Twisted Sister members had ventured into the hospitality area, which certainly set them apart from all the other bands. If you look below you will see a photo of a poster that I bought to commemorate the evening, and every member of every other band signed that poster, but there are no T.S. signatures to be found. For me, as a fan of metal and wanting to be part of an evening that wasn’t about any one band or performance, T.S. did not enamor me one little bit and later this only got worse. But I am getting ahead of myself by about 40 minutes.
When TS hit the stage they certainly delivered musically and Dee Snider appears quite disturbingly the exact same as he was 30 years ago, vocally and appearance-wise, less the make-up. I’m not going to try to pretend I’m a fan and know any more than the standard TS MTV hits, but basically that was their exact set last Saturday. Good stuff, well played and, not surprisingly, the audience knew every song. We got several feel good moments just listening to the audience singing along to music they grew up to. A very well received little extra came in the form of Dave “The Snake” Sabo from Skid Row, who joined the band for a ripping version of “Under The Blade”. I couldn’t hope to captured this verbatim, but during one of the song interludes, when in times past Dee Snider has been know to let rip at the crowd, he turned this around and tore into the “authorities” for the situation left behind in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, and based on the intensity and sincerity in his voice I really felt his passion. Of that, I have no doubt. Their set closed with ‘I Wanna Rock” and this had the crowd totally hooked, belting it out and loving every moment – it was amazing to be part of this.
At that point, I was headed backstage and despite a badge that said “All Access” apparently this didn’t mean “all” when T.S. are leaving the stage area, and security were blocking everyone, no matter what badge or reason. Something about this ‘privileged’ behavior left a bit of sour taste and it wasn’t only me that noticed this. Where every other performer worked around the chaos, little that it may have been, it seems T.S. were above all this. So, this ‘fuss’ and the rather obvious “get Raven off the stage, or Twisted are going to have a hissy…” were perhaps the only two downers throughout a wickedly good evening. Well that and the fact that the venue ran out of alcohol at some point…
Up next we got the mighty ANVIL, a band I have a particular soft-spot for, having been a fan since “Hard ‘n’ Heavy”, with that particular signed album cover taking pride of place in our ‘music room’ up on the wall, alongside an ever growing collection of memorabilia. I’ve seen ANVIL several times in the past 2 years, ranging from a terribly advertised show at Jaxx (Springfield, VA), where there were perhaps 25 or so people in the whole place, to sold out shows in Vienna (VA). The one thing you can never say is they don’t deliver, no matter what size crowd. Of course, that was not a problem for this show.
However, following TS was not perhaps the easiest and opening with ‘March of the Crabs”, they simply did what ANVIL does. While they may have closed with “Metal on Metal”, in many ways this is the band mantra. Turn it up to ’11’, feel the power and go with the metal. If you ‘get it’ you’ll be head-banging with the best of them, otherwise go find a spot at the bar and chill. Robb Reiner is a monster on the drum kit and in many ways I have felt he is the power-plant of the band – he is the musical master, from which everything flows. While Lips is no doubt a showman, he is certainly not the most technically appointed player and there are times when I wonder what a few less ‘weed sessions’ might have given us? On any other day that thought probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind, but when you’ve got master musicians like Mark Gallagher, Dave Feinstein and Dave DePietro to measure up to, it isn’t hard to see who’s got the chops. However, Robb, on the kit, is more than a match for anyone on any given day, and for me it was his performance I noticed.
It was great to see Sal Italiano pumping it out on bass. Even though he is truly the “new guy”, he brings more to the band than previous bassist, Glenn Gyorffy, ever did in my opinion. I am very pumped for the new ANVIL album, “Hope In Hell”, due to hit the streets at the very end of May, which will be the first to feature the current line-up. From what the guys were able to tell me and from the few pre-release reviews I have read, we are in for a treat, taking us back to the true roots that brought us “Metal on Metal” and “Forged In Fire”.
At this point it was noticeable that the crowd had begun to thin a little and I’m sure the combination of TS having been on relatively early and the fact the venue was out of beer at this point, and perhaps not everyone present knew who T.T.Quick are, was to blame, but, for me at least, I was pumped at this point. Mark Tornillo has been doing a fantastic job with Accept and I have been fortunate to see them twice in the past 2 years or so. I know many Accept fans find the lack of Udo up front a problem, but Blood of the Nations (2010) was an exceptional heavy metal record and Mark does a fine job on the older Accept material. The idea that we were about to see T.T.Quick was now almost reality, something that I never thought I would see.
After a few more words from Eddie Trunk, T.T.Quick hit the stage and despite some initial mic issues (which were not the first of the night; we had witnessed at least two other instances where a mic ended up being thrown across the stage because it wasn’t working), the band hit the stage with a power and bite that showed they were here to deliver some serious metal. David DePietro is a guitar monster and I had been primed to pay attention – anyone that was involved with teaching Zakk Wylde must have some serious chops and from what I saw in the first couple of numbers had me convinced! Revisiting “Metal of Honor” after the show really had me wondering why T.T.Quick never achieved more success? Sometimes the music industry just has me shaking my head. The entire set was a power-play and for me I think it was ‘Front Burner’ and ‘Metal of Honor’ toward the end of the set that really had me doing my nut, but there wasn’t a weak number in any of the seven numbers they delivered. Eddie jumped up on stage and incited the audience to call them back for more and we were treated to “Go For The Throat” and then a crushing version of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” that included an impromptu ‘all-star’ appearance by John Gallagher from Raven who delivered a couple of lines and was off again! And then we were done. I don’t remember looking at the time but it must have been around 1.30AM and one of my most memorable moments in my heavy metal life was over, but the memories will live on.
Since the show I have seen many great pictures of the night, but I have yet to see any really good quality video footage – hopefully there is some. Overall I had a blast and I have only seen good things said about the show. Scoring this seems a little pointless, since how do you score something that is unique? But for completeness this was a straight 10/10.
This entry was posted on May 17, 2013 at 5:18 pm and is filed under Gig Reviews with tags Anvil, Dave DePietro, David DePietro, Eddie Trunk, Heavy Metal Heavan, Joe Hasselvander, John Gallagher, live review, Lords Of Mercy, Mark Gallagher, Mark Tornillo, Old Bridge Metal Militia, Raven, T.T. Quick, The Rods, Twisted Sister. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.